Tag Archives: fall

Fall Forest Frolics

Ah, fall, that wonderful time of year when you can wear your sweaters and cozy socks without having to add a huge coat and boots! I love the excuse to drink copious amounts of hot chocolate and look forward to pumpkin pie and homemade applesauce. Even the commute is more enjoyable, with the trees doing their best fireworks impression.

However, despite the wonderful coziness that sets in as the days get shorter and cooler, or maybe because of it, I can never quite shake the sense of melancholy that comes along with the changing colours. Fall is such a short season here, and the long winter is right around the corner…

This is usually enough to set me to searching out slightly darker fare for my bedtime reading, and this year in particular I’ve been feeling very arboreally-focused in my selections, as you can see by my current to-read list, which I’ve shared below:

Big Lonely Doug by Harley Rustad

Originally featured as a long-form article in The Walrus that garnered a National Magazine Award (Silver), Big Lonely Doug weaves the ecology of old-growth forests, the legend of the West Coast’s big trees, and the turbulence of the logging industry.  It delves into the fight for preservation, the contention surrounding ecotourism, First Nations land and resource rights, and the fraught future of these ancient forests around the story of a logger who saved one of Canada’s last great trees.

The Hazel Wood by Melissa Albert

Seventeen-year-old Alice and her mother have spent most of Alice’s life on the road, always a step ahead of the uncanny bad luck biting at their heels. But when Alice’s grandmother, the reclusive author of a cult-classic book of pitch-dark fairy tales dies alone on her estate the Hazel Wood, Alice learns how bad her luck can really get.


Into the Forest by Jean Hegland

Over 30 miles from the nearest town, and several miles away from their nearest neighbor, Nell and Eva struggle to survive as society begins to decay and collapse around them. No single event precedes society’s fall. There is talk of a war overseas and upheaval in Congress, but it still comes as a shock when the electricity runs out and gas is nowhere to be found. The sisters consume the resources left in the house, waiting for the power to return. Their arrival into adulthood, however, forces them to reexamine their place in the world and their relationship to the land and each other.

The Stranger in the Woods: The Extraordinary Story of the Last True Hermit by Michael Finkel

In 1986, twenty-year-old Christopher Knight left his home in Massachusetts, drove to Maine, and disappeared into the woods. He would not have a conversation with another human being until nearly three decades later when he was arrested for stealing food. Living in a tent even in winter, he had survived by his wits and courage, developing ingenious ways to store food and water to avoid freezing to death

Hatchet by Gary Paulsen

After a plane crash, thirteen-year-old Brian spends fifty-four days in the Canadian wilderness, learning to survive with only the aid of a hatchet given him by his mother, and learning also to survive his parents’ divorce.

The Hill by Karen Bass

Jared’s plane has crashed in the Alberta wilderness, and Kyle is first on the scene. When Jared insists on hiking up the highest hill in search of cell phone reception, Kyle hesitates; his Cree grandmother has always forbidden him to go near it. There’s no stopping Jared, though, so Kyle reluctantly follows. After a night spent on the hilltop — with no cell service — the teens discover something odd: the plane has disappeared. Nothing in the forest surrounding them seems right. In fact, things seem very wrong. And worst of all, something is hunting them.

If you’re looking for a fun, in-real-life way to welcome in this spooky yet beautiful time of year, check out the Twilight Trek: A Walking Storytime in Bruce Park happening on October 23 (weather permitting!). Feel free to dress up in costume as we wander through the park sharing spooky stories in this beautiful natural setting!

What books are you reaching for this time of year? As the weather drives us inside, are you reaching for cozy, heartwarming stories, or are you eyeing up the woods next door with a shiver running up and down your spine like me? Let me know below! I’d love to hear what’s on your to-read list!

Happy reading,






Long Books for Short Days: A Fall Reading List

I love autumn reading! As the heat of summer fades, I can’t think of a better way to spend a crisp fall evening than curling up with a hot cup of tea and a good book. During the summer, I often find it too hot to concentrate on anything very heavy – especially with all of Winnipeg’s great festivals to distract me! But as soon as the cooler weather hits, I’m ready to slow down with something a bit more in depth. As Halloween approaches, my reading starts to get a little darker. I want eerie stories of ghosts and magic to read on a cold night. So get cozy and settle in with one of these great fall books.

jonathanstrangeFor a book that might take you until winter to finish, try Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke. At 782 pages, it’s sometimes sold as two books to make it more manageable. But if the word count doesn’t scare you off, you’ll find yourself falling into this absorbing tale. In an alternate 19th century England, studying magic has become a scholarly pursuit. When the mysterious Jonathan Strange appears and is taken as an apprentice by Mr. Norrell, their conflicting ideas over the practice of magic have greater consequences than either could imagine.

anubisgatesThe Anubis Gates by Tim Powers is another novel about English academics. It includes time travel, a professor organizing an expedition to the past, an ancient Egyptian sorcerer, and the poet Lord Byron.

littlebigThis is also the season I like to reread old favourites, like John Crowley’s Little, Big. It follows several generations of the same family and their strange relationship to Faerie. The magic of this story is a quiet constant in the background. The focus is on various members of this odd family, on their choices and relationships throughout the years.

In Catherynne Valente’s novel Deathless, the Rusdeathlesssian folktale of Koschei the Deathless is retold set against the backdrop of WWII. Marya Morevna, a clever girl living in Stalinist Russia, becomes Koschei’s bride and begins a journey that will take her far from home. This is a darkly beautiful tale of love and war. Of girls who don’t always do as they’re told and stories that don’t always go as planned.

Now I understand that many people are just getting back into school, or are busy with work, and might not have time to finish an epic read. Don’t worry, there are plenty of shorter spooky works to get you through October!

hillhouseShirley Jackson wrote many short stories, but her novel The Haunting of Hill House is a classic of suspense literature. Several people are invited to stay at a remote mansion to take part in a study of insomnia. But what they find when they get there is not at all what they expect. Jackson was a master of psychological horror, and much of the action takes place inside the protagonist’s troubled mind. It can be difficult to know if it’s her, or the house itself.

livesofshadowsIn Lives of Shadows by Barbara Hodgson, a man returns to a house he purchased in Damascus before WWI, only to find it haunted by memories of the past. Like the rest of Hodgson’s work, this novel is beautifully illustrated with old photographs, sketches, and other marginalia.

bonekeyIn her introduction to The Bone Key, Sarah Monette admits to being inspired by the work of H.P. Lovecraft. This series of interconnected short stories follow Kyle Murchison Booth, an academic who is constantly pulled into the supernatural world against his will.

deliasshadowGhosts haunt turn of the century San Francisco in Delia’s Shadow by Jamie Lee Moyer. They have followed Delia all her life. As she returns home for the first time in years, she is haunted by the ghost of a woman whose killer was never found. And the killer may not be finished with San Francisco after all.

I hope you’ll take home at least one of these works to keep you company tonight!


Shades of Autumn: A Fall List of Fun Things

It was one of those perfect English autumnal days which occur more frequently in memory than in life.  P.D. James
It definitely feels like summer is hanging on by a thread as we’re heading into a  cooler fall season.  Kids are back at school, vacations are over and the threat of winter snow is looming closer.  Though autumn is my favorite of all seasons, it’s unfortunately often the shortest, most fleeting one .  Lately, I’ve been thinking of some of the things I’d like to do this fall to make the most of the season.  Check out my list of a dozen things to do this fall and hopefully you’ll find a few things on this list that you’d like to do too!

  1.  Go on a fall hike.   What better time to go on a hike than in the fall when the leaves are changing and the colors are breathtaking?  If you need some help finding great Manitoba hiking spots, feel free to check out these books on hiking.
  2. Learn how to can and preserve.  Of course this assumes that you were left with a bounty of fruits and vegetables from your garden, but if not, you can purchase some from an outdoor market.
  3. Pick apples.  I was hoping to do that this year, but my tree yielded NO apples!  If you had more luck than me, try out some of these great apple recipes.
  4. Head to a pumpkin patch and pick out your own pumpkin.  Then check out these books on cooking with pumpkin or carving pumpkins.
  5. If you’re a football fan, have some friends over to watch a game and try out a new chili recipe.
  6. Start thinking about next year’s garden and plant some mums and bulbs.  Get some ideas here.
  7. Make a Halloween costume for yourself or your kid(s).  Plenty of ideas to be had in these books, and some of these require more imagination than sewing skills.
  8. Do some fall decluttering and get rid of unwanted items around your house.  This weekend (September 8 and 9) is the City of Winnipeg’s giveaway weekend .  It’s amazing how quickly your unwanted items will become someone else’s newfound treasures!
  9. Try out some new slow cooker recipes, so that after a hard day of work you can come home to the aroma of a yummy, fully cooked meal!
  10. Explore a small town and enjoy a fall supper while you’re there.  Travel Manitoba has a list of fall suppers held throughout the province, most of them all-you-can eat suppers for a modest price.
  11. Check out a festival.  This weekend is Manyfest, a festival held in downtown Winnipeg from September 7 to 9.  If you need a break from all the activity, head down to the Millennium library and spend some time relaxing in the park, or borrow some DVDs, music or books from the library!
  12.  Register for a running or walking race. There are plenty to choose from this fall!  A listing of some races can be found here.  Who knows? This might even inspire you to enter the marathon next year. You can get some training tips here.
  13. If lists make you feel thoroughly exhausted, let’s make this a baker’s dozen and end off with a very relaxing way to spend an autumn day.  Pick a cool fall day, spend the day in your pajamas and read a library book or two!

Makeover Your Mind

With all the flyers proclaiming “it’s back to school,” I recall my own school days with remorse: all that wasted time when I dozed off during history class! I now regret that I don’t know more about the War of 1812, among other things.  As I stumble toward my sixth decade, I feal a crash course in some subjects will at least improve my cocktail party chatter, if not my mind.

   Winston Churchill was an indifferent student who failed two entrance exams to Royal Military College and later found that literary references in conversation left him at a loss. Churchill began his own course of self-tutoring in pursuit of the liberal education that eluded him at public school. According to Churchill Style, this program of intensive reading began a ravenous and life-long passion for book collecting. A man of many interests, Churchill also took up painting, which proved to be of solace during the dark times of his life.

A recent Vanity Fair article highlighted the work of The Singing Butler Jack Vettriano, an ex-coalminer, who taught himself to paint by copying Monet and Caravaggio. His paintings (such as The Singing Butler, shown) now sell for huge sums. You, too, can kick start a latent artistic talent. Grab a sketchbook and head down to the WAG or read Daily Book of Art ; a year’s worth of information of ideas, events and personalities to help you understand the big picture of art.

Aldous Huxley Aldous Huxley supposedly read Encyclopedia Britannica as a leisure activity. He was known to pontificate on a variety of subjects at dinner parties.  One astute guest noticed that all Huxley’s topics began with the same letter. Upon checking in an adjoining library, the guest discovered that Huxley was quoting verbatim from the Encyclopædia Britannica.
Instead of lugging a door-stopper volume or blowing the budget to collect books a la  Churchill, the modern autodidact can transform an Ipad into a mobile classroom and access the following tools for free:

Sign up to receive an article a day in your inbox from Wikipedia, which claims to deliver the “sum of all human knowledge”  to your inbox every day.

Attend university from your home. UC Berkeley offers lectures on everything from Astronomy to US History on YouTube.

Learn languages including Spanish, Dutch or German with Tell Me More, an online database available for Winnipeg Public Library cardholders. Read the latest @thelibrary, join a book club, or attend a workshop or lecture.

Here’s more non-required reading to help jump start your self-education:

Filmology   – a movie-a-day guide to a complete education in film.

  Smarter by Sunday – 52 weekends of essential knowledge for the curious mind.

  Homework for Grown-ups– everything you learned at school and promptly forgot.

Take heart: these resources will help you assist with your child’s homework without humiliation – or at the very least improve your dinner party repartee.  No term papers or final examinations are expected.


Books to Read Before TV Season

I am NOT going to say that summer is winding down (let’s deny that for as long as we can). Nor am I going to say that fall is on the horizon. All I’m going to say is, here is a list of books. You may want to read some of them before checking out this fall’s newest shows.


Green Arrow cover Before watching “Arrow”, a highly-anticipated action series that follows the adventures of the titular hero, 

Read the Green Arrow stories from DC Comics, in which Oliver Queen, billionaire by day, dons his arsenal of trick arrows to right wrongs at night.


Is Everyone Hanging Out Without MeBefore watching “The Mindy Project,” a sitcom featuring the misadventures of a young doctor and her quirky co-workers,

Read Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns) by Mindy Kaling which collects the comedy-writer-and-actress’s unempirical observations on life, romance, and fame.


666 Park AvenueBefore watching “666 Park Avenue,” a supernatural drama about a swanky apartment building on Manhattan’s Upper East Side and the mysterious goings-on therein,

Read 666 Park Avenue by Gabriella Pierce, which seeks to answer the question, what do you do when your new mother in-law turns out to be a bonafide, evil, heartless, witch?


Sherlock HolmesBefore watching “Elementary”, where Sherlock Holmes is alive and (mostly) well in contemporary New York City,

Read the original Sherlock Holmes novels by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, which have aged splendidly, especially considering the diversly-skilled detective has been appearing in print for 125 years.

If you start now, you will be fully equipped to join in on the argument, that often arises, as to whether the book really was “soooo much better” than the screen adaptation. (I’m quoting myself there, BTW.) Enjoy!